10 BEST Places to Visit in Bhutan

When you're thinking about best countries to visit in the world, Bhutan may not necessarily be on your list. However, you shouldn't overlook it. It is a beautiful place and has a mix of natural, historical, and manmade attractions. So, you should plan your next vacation to Bhutan.

Bhutan is famous for having created Gross National Happiness as opposed to Gross Domestic Product based on four pillars of sustainable tourism, preservation and promotion of local culture and traditions. In few countries of the world is such great importance given to the local culture, conservation of the environment and good governance.

Why not travel to the happiest country in the world? Bhutan is home to a world of scenic Himalayan landscapes and rich culture. Entrenched in traditions while also embracing the changes in the world, Bhutan is known for its highly sustainable tourism, which protects its environment and its cultural identity.

With its unique Buddhist culture, pristine scenery and fresh mountain air and a country that still retains its medieval features and traditions, Bhutan attracts tourists by its original beauty, pristine, majestic, changing through each festive season with colorful folk, with movements of makeup, masks and unique dances.

You can explore the pristine landscape of the Himalayas, featuring traditional architecture, ancient Buddhist sites, visiting the happiest local lives, spectacular festivals, and dynamic rich wildlife. Soak in a bath after a long day of exploration, visit the monasteries, and even hike to Tiger's Nest. Pack your bags to unpack the secrets of this happiness!

Popularly known for being the happiest country in the world, its people will definitely make you feel that way. Bhutan is a country that strongly protects its culture and traditions. Some consider it to be the last Shangri La, with an impressive landscape of illustrated fairytale, where the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas rise over shady gorges lined with virgin forests, and dzongs that rise like majestic forts and monasteries.

The Buddhist state, despite its size, has extremely varied landscapes, from steep mountains to subtropical plains. However, you have to plan your trip quite extensively. In order to preserve local culture and traditions, Bhutan has some strict rules in place. You'll have to book an official tour with a government-approved agency and pay a daily visitor's fee on top of that. This can be quite expensive, so you need to plan your trip accordingly.

In addition, you need to respect local customs and dress appropriately. Make sure you wear loose clothes which cover your arms and legs. Once you have all these things out of the way, you can make your plans. While on a road trip, Phuntsholing is the official entry and exit points to Bhutan from India. Some people mainly visit Bhutan to see Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan.

best places to visit in bhutan

Here are a few places you should add to your itinerary on your Bhutan visit.

1. Paro Taktsang

Take a trip to one of the many monasteries that the country has, including one of the most daring treks to Tiger's Nest. This monk was the one who supposedly introduced Buddhism to Bhutan. The temple is spectacularly built on a cliff above 900 meters above the Paro Valley and 3120 meters above sea level. The trip to climb the Tiger's Nest takes around 4 hours.

It can only be accessed on foot or horse, after a long and intense road, but it is definitely worth it. The Tiger's Nest, called Taktsang Monastery, was built around a cave in which a monk named Padmasambhava meditated.

The Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger's Nest Monastery, is considered one of the most blessed sites in Buddhism. It is just outside of Paro and is quite beautiful. You'll have to trek a few thousand meters to get to this site, and then you can see the historical buildings clinging to the steep rock face. This monastery is functional, and you'll probably be able to spot a few monks out and about on their work.

2. Buddha Dordenma

In Thimphu, the great Buddha Dordenma, from the top of a hill, leads the whole valley. This is one of the newer attractions in the country. It stands at an imposing fifty-one meters tall and is quite a sight to behold. You should try and gaze at it from above as well. To do this, you'll need to hike up a bit, and look at it from there.

The great thing is that there are various tents as well as camps behind the statue, and the locals there will welcome you there. You’ll really enjoy the experience and get to visit this beautiful statue overlooking the city of Thimpu.

3. Tashichho Dzong

Tachog Lhakhang, a small private temple accessed through a suspension bridge, and the Tashichho dzong, Buddhist monastery and fortification, imposing and harmonious, are essential visits. A Dzong is a fortified building which serves both administrative and monastic purposes. While there are many of these around the city of Thimpu, the Tashichho Dzong is the major one.

It is quite massive, and you'll see monks doing their regular activities all around it. In addition, it even has a changing of the guard ceremony. You can watch this ceremony if you time your visit correctly. Make sure you're there before 5 PM sharp, as that is when the flag dehoisting and changing of the guard ceremony will begin.

October is the best month to visit Bhutan to see Thimphu because the weather is moderate and, most importantly, the most popular festival of Bhutan called Mask Dances is celebrated during the month of October for three days in Tashichho Dzong.

4. Dochula Pass

Or head to Dochula Pass, from where one can see 108 shrines overlooking the gorgeous valley. This pass serves as a stopping point for buses going between Thimpu and Punakha. It is 3,100 meters into the mountains, and has over 108 shrines. Your journey begins with the stunning, clear view of the majestic Himalayan range. Try to pass by Dochula pass in the afternoon to witness panoramic view of 5 peaks of Himalayas on a clear day.

Usually, this place is covered in mist majority of the time blocking the view of Himalayan peaks. You can explore the monastery and pathways here to take in the beautiful views. When the weather is clear, you get gorgeous views of the Himalayas over the valley. In addition, there is even a lovely botanical park nearby, with tea shops, snacks, and a temple in the vicinity as well.

This is one of the underrated attractions of Bhutan, and you must experience it for yourself. Trek the Dochula mountain pass, with its 108 stupas and the temple on top of the hill.

5. Punakha Suspension Bridge

Bhutan's longest suspension bridge is only a few miles away from Punakha Dzong. It is 160 meters long, and spans the Po Chhu River. You should definitely try crossing it, and admire its unique beauty. There are prayer flags tied along its sides, making it look quite peaceful and attractive.

If you look down from this bridge, you'll also be able to see whitewater rafters, if you're lucky. This bridge connects the town of Punakha with the Punakha Dzong, and is worth the trip. Take a walk on the longest suspension bridge near Punakha Dzong, for some amazing photographic options.

6. Chimi Lhakhang

If you're a fan of unique art, then you have to see the fertility temple at Punakha. Chimi Lhakhang is also called the fertility temple, and is considered to be a place where miracles occur. Women suffering from fertility issues come here to receive blessings. While the temple itself is fairly standard, and quite beautiful, it’s the surrounding areas near Punakha which are truly fascinating.

Chimi Lhakhang, the temple of fertility, is a beautiful traditional architecture and colorful decoration inside. The surrounding town has phallic imagery painted all over various buildings, and these are true works of art. With the increasing influx of visitors over the years, however, these symbols are slowly disappearing to cater to more puritan sensibilities. This is exactly the sort of thing Bhutan wants to protect, and why its tourism is so limited.

The best month to visit Bhutan is March. Then is the spring festival where you can find monks and locals celebrating the festival, together. This festival is commonly known as Tshechu in Bhutan. Tshechu is celebrated all around Bhutan on different months. During Tshechu, men and women are beautifully dressed. When Spring provides abundant colourful flowers and its freshness, it is the perfect time for the lower altitude treks in the north-central and southern areas of Bhutan.

7. Punakha Dzong

The Punakha Dzong fortress is the most impressive in the country and the second oldest.

8. Paro Airport Bird's Eye View Point

Bhutan has only one international airport that is in Paro, the third city in the country. Paro is 1 hour by car from the capital of Bhutan, Thimphu. It usually appears on lists of the most dangerous airports in the world, although there are no records that there have been accidents in it since 1950. Only two airlines fly to Bhutan and both are local with Druk Air and Bhutan Airlines.

9. Phobjikha Valley

Go through the Phobjikha valley and see the black-necked cranes that migrate from Tibet, one of the birds most valued by the Bhutanese.

10. Jomolhari

The routes of Bhutan are physically demanding but at the same time very rewarding like Bumthang and Jomolhari and are ideal for day trips. Eastern Bhutan is rarely visited by travelers, and there is much to see on this side of the country.

For those people who visit Bhutan solely to trek, the seasons play a big part of when you can trek certain traits. Autumn, from October to November, is one of the best time to trek in Bhutan when Summer rains retreat, revealing glorious mountain views. The high altitude treks are best done in Bhutan.

The national animal of Bhutan is called Takin and is a interesting mammal that looks like a mixture between a goat and a cow. Adventurous folks can even enjoy white water rafting! A few hours away from Paro by the highest passable road in the country, the little frequented Haa valley houses magical hermitages nestled in the rock, ancient temples and charming villages.

Discover secluded valleys and nature reserves, experience night life in Thimphu by going at local club, pubs and karaoke. Try local made wine called (Ara), don't try doma, a combination of lime and betel nut, you will regret immediately.

As archery is the national sport of Bhutan, there are some really impressive archers there. You can visit the Changlimithang Stadium, and there are usually some competitions happening there. Even if there aren't, you can watch their archers practicing some truly remarkable feats. Just make sure you sit quietly and don't do anything to break their concentration.

After all, they have to shoot the target from 100s of meters far, so they need their full focus. The best part is, you can watch them without paying any ticket fees, and enjoy their athletic prowess.

To sum up, Bhutan is well worth the cost and effort. It is a beautiful and peaceful country, with lots to explore and really good food to eat.

Kalyan Panja